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Kentucky by Heart: Honoring those who paid ultimate price; celebrating milestones at Wilmore Elementary

By Steve Flairty
NKyTribune columnist

The date June 6, 1944, will always stand out as iconic in American history. That’s when 156,000 Allied troops, including 73,000 U.S. soldiers and marines, stormed beaches in Normandy, France, and began the final stages of victory over Hitler’s Germany and the Axis Powers, bent on domination of Europe, North Africa, and East Asia.

Americans fought bravely, paying a great cost in lives lost and severely injured; they were a huge reason the Allies stopped the onslaught and ended World War II in 1945.

Hershel “Woody” Williams (Photo from Stripes.com)

Fast forward to June 6, 2019, in Louisville, when there will be a special event to honor the American heroes of the D-Day invasion. Sponsored by Honor Flight Bluegrass and called “Operation Bravo Zulu” (meaning ‘Thanks for a job well done!’), the event will feature honored guest 95-year-old guest Hershel “Woody” Williams, who will join his fellow World War II veterans on this historic day, noted Kelli Oakley, the chairperson.

“He will lead the ceremony with 75 or more veterans and their families as we recognize and pay tribute to these members of the ‘Greatest Generation,’” she said. “Included in the program are exhibits, the Ladies for Liberty singing troupe, the Don Krekel Orchestra, and special recognition of each WWII veteran.”

The public is invited to the program at Memorial Auditorium, 970 South Fourth Street, in Louisville. Doors will be open to the public at 6 p.m. and the program begins at 6:30. Admission is free to WWII veterans and three of their guests. Additional tickets can be purchased for $10 per person through the Louisville Memorial Auditorium website and there will be a meet and greet afterward with veterans and their families available.

The mission of Honor Flight Bluegrass, according to event information, is to “locate and identify eligible veterans to visit their respective war memorials located in Washington, DC” and “to provide each veteran with the opportunity to receive the accolades for service from a grateful nation to a Hero’s Welcome Home.”

For more information, call Kelli Oakley at 859-433-6495 or email honorflightbluegrass1944@gmail.com.

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This past Thursday night, I was honored to speak at the graduation/celebration event of the Wilmore Elementary School (WES) graduating class of fifth graders, held at Asbury University, in Wilmore. It was gratifying for me to be asked, and I was further gratified to see such fine boys and girls reach one of their many formative landmarks in their educational process.

Wilmore Elementary School

For the last dozen or so years, I’ve served as a substitute teacher at the school; it has been invigorating, even for a guy who has spent now 40 years as either a full-time or part-time educator. The school, grades one through five, perennially achieves academically as one of the highest in the Jessamine County system, and with few exceptions, students’ behavior is very good. It has a wonderful staff; a visitor spending a small amount of time in the building will notice that students respect the adults—teachers and other staff members who work hard to make it an edifying experience for the children.

The wonderful school culture has a lot to do, in my opinion, with the parents of those students. In most cases I see, the students at WES come to school ready to learn. Though a family’s financial resources are important in making that happen, that’s not the only factor. Many of the parents, and consequently their children, have a significant connection to Asbury University, and that includes the seminary. It’s not unusual to see WES students who have parents who work there as faculty or other staff members, and parents often are attending Asbury as students or seminarians. Often, they are religious missionaries, and this is a training step along the way.

Also as a result of the Asbury influence, students at WES come from a wide diversity of race and culture backgrounds from all over the world. One can’t help sensing that while walking down the hallway at WES and seeing such a welcoming, cosmopolitan atmosphere.

That said, it tends toward strong home lives in the community, where education is valued highly and fellow citizens are acknowledged for their dignity. Wilmore Elementary School is the happy recipient, and I’ve been personally blessed by being a small part of the school.

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Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of six books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and five in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #4,” was released in 2015. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly KyForward and NKyTribune columnist and a member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

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